By Tiara Cunningham
As a global citizen and future sustainability professional, the SIPA Israel environmental delegation provided an unmatched opportunity to learn about the current environmental challenges and unique resiliency practices in Israel as well as experience the Israeli culture. Each day was filled with site visits and lectures from leading experts in water, technology, conflict-negotiation, agriculture and sustainability. Reading articles about the impact of climate change on biodiversity can be informative, but snorkeling and experiencing first-hand the unique biodiversity and coral reefs at the Coral Beach Nature Reserve in Eilat, Israel, was an unforgettable experience. Visiting Netafim, a pioneer company in micro-irrigation, and learning about the incredible innovations in water technology and the impact of drip irrigation in arid climates exemplified resiliency and water conservation.
During our visit to the Dead Sea, we learned that the Dead Sea is shrinking at approximately one meter per year due to global warming and increased dependency on surrounding water sources that feed into the sea. The delegation discussed the complexities of the political dynamics regarding water rights and water management in Israel. Currently, water is shared without diplomatic relations and as the population continues the grow, water for agriculture, industry and municipal usage is steadily increasing. Like most complicated issues associated with climate change, there are several different approaches and options that can aid in implementing more sustainable practices.
The experience I will cherish the most wasn’t captured in the old city of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, or even at the top of the Masada. It was during our open personal dialogues on the bus among my peers and the local Israeli students who joined our Trek. This year’s SIPA Israel environmental delegation represented 12 different nationalities with varied academic and professional backgrounds. I have traveled to over 28 countries, yet the creativity, complexity and charisma of Israel completely captivated me. The lessons learned during the delegation challenged all my preconceived notions about Israel. My experience with the delegation affirmed that our work to preserve and protect the environment is critical even in the face of other pressing issues. The world needs informed sustainability practitioners with global perspectives. In the same way that environmental crisis and challenges do not recognize national borders, neither should our influence on the world be limited to the state or the nation that we call home.
Tiara Cunningham is a student in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program.